Saturday, January 29, 2011

"The Runner Stumbles" reminds me why I love theater

This weekend and next weekend I am running lights for Regent's production of The Runner Stumbles, by Milan Stitt.  It's not a glamorous job.  I'm dressed in black, sitting in a dusty booth, hidden behind a giant light board, pressing a "go" button for two and a half hours.  Tech jobs are kind of a drag.  (but this is my last required one! Yay!) I actually chose running lights because I anticipated that this production would be good, and I wanted a crew position where I'd be able to watch the show (as opposed to running costumes or props, which I've done for the past three crew positions I've had.) Unfortunately, with the way the booth is situated, I can only watch the show if I run lights standing up.  Which I've done several times, because yes, the show is good.  Very, very good.

First of all, the play itself is pretty amazing.  It's about a priest and a nun...and yes, there've been jokes.  My favorite? A priest and a nun have dinner together.  Afterwards, the priest asks the nun if he can give her a kiss goodnight.  She thinks for  a moment, then says, "I suppose so.  As long as you don't get into the habit."

Buh-dum chick.

Anyway.  It's about a priest and a nun, and the tension that ensues as they wrestle with the love they have for God and the developing feelings between the two of them.  There's fire, violence, scandal, and in the end...murder.  And yet, there's hope.  Redemption. A sense that God is in our midst, only waiting for us to pivot towards Him so that He can receive us with open arms.  The play is well-written, funny, clever, and throbbing with pain and grief. 

Secondly, the director, one of my professors (who also directed The Elephant Man) is a meticulous, detail-oriented master of storytelling.  There is not a nuance of the script that's left unexplored.  Characters are drawn in precise detail, and the choices he's made at the end of each act with the lights, sound, staging, music, tell a clear and compelling story of despair and redemption, respectively. And the design work is delicious.  From the smallest detail of the crosses built into the furniture, to the sepia painting of  Christ on the cross subtly woven into the floorboards, to the ghostly draping of the material across the backdrop...yummy.

And then, there's the acting.  This is a demanding play.  The characters explore extreme heights and depths of emotion.  The actors are required to be intelligent, witty, impulse-driven, and extremely emotionally vulnerable.  And, for the most part, they succeed brilliantly.  There are many LOVELY performances, but if I had to single some out, I'd choose the performances of Father Rivard, Sister Rita and Mrs. Shandig.  The actor playing Rivard has the daunting task of moving through time...from the present time when he's on trial for the murder of Sister Rita and the past, where he's reliving his relationship with her from the moment of first meeting, through the crisis of faith, until the climactic night of the fire in the village when he's forced to make a life-changing decision. The actor handles all these changes with ease, charm, and grace.  Charm and grace are kind of trademarks of his, so that's not terrifically surprising.  However, he has also discovered within himself a complexity of emotion which I've never seen from him in any previous roles.  The actress playing Mrs. Shandig, the priest's Polish housekeeper, manages to bring many moments of much-needed humor into the story, but maintains a groundedness and total believability in her role which enables the unexpected revelation her character brings (no spoilers!) at the end to happen in a shockingly organic fashion.  This is the role that I would have loved to play, but she does it magnificently.  Finally, there's the first-year MFA playing Sister Rita.  This girl is one to watch.  Every moment she's onstage, she's alive and responsive.  Each gesture, each facial expression, each reaction and every word out of her mouth seem to spring to life right at that moment.  It's a beautiful, captivating performance and I can't wait to be in a show with her to get the chance to work off of her.

Now, is it a perfect show? No, of course not.  It's still a student performance.  There are occasionally misspoken lines, late cues, a moment of text which hasn't been fully explored.  This is to  be expected.  Not accepted, these things must continue to be worked on, but it is, as all live theater is, a  work in progress.  There are actors who make choices I don't agree with, things I would have directed differently.  Even lines in the script I would have written differently. 

But this show, this show is  lovely. It's a privilege to be a part of it, even in my small unglamorous way.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

And the beat goes on...

I've been doing a lot of reading, and some researching of counseling options.  I appreciate all the feedback from everyone, and I hope you'll feel free to keep giving input - it really helps me clarify my thinking.  I don't necessarily feel any need to hang a label on Scooby, because I don't think they're particularly helpful.  What was helpful, however, is recognizing that kids who behave in ways similar to this sometimes need help coping with things.  That it's not necessarily bad parenting on our part, but that there are certainly areas we need to work on in our parenting skills.  That getting him help has moved up a number of notches on the to do list.

In the meantime...

The pinewood derby for CubScouts was last night, and once again I wasn't able to go because of school stuff.  Scooby got 2nd place for the Sibling category and Tarzan took 3rd place for his Den! Apparently there was a judge error and he thinks he actually should have placed higher, but still I think they were pleased overall.  Thanks Grandpa! next year, Cinderella wants to make a car too and have it shaped like a heart, "not just a plain old car."

I currently in a tech rehearsal for a show called The Runner Stumbles.  I'm running lights (for the first time in many many years) and it's my last required Crew Practicum.  After this, I only have to be at tech for shows if I'm in them.  Classes are going  well.  I'm  learning  IPA (Phoenetic spelling) in Vocal production, working on emotional preparation in Meisner 2, and doing sit-com scenes in Screen Acting.  This week I worked on this scene:
I didn't really want to spend a bunch of money on a turkey, but I ended up getting a large whole chicken.  There was just no way to properly do justice to the scene without real raw meat.  And yes, I brought lots of hand sanitizer and clorox wipes for the floor and lined the counter and oven with aluminum foil.  It was suprisingly disgusting to throw around a raw chicken, but the scene turned out really well and there was lots of laughter!

We're working on the (final?)  phase of the Oyster project.  He got A pluses on the Results and Conclusions portions though! He's applying for the Tidewater Science Fair (although he "forgot" to turn the paperwork in yesterday, which was the deadline.  He emailed his teacher and got special permission to bring it in on Monday.  Grrrr.) It's a big deal if he gets accepted - it takes place on Old Dominion college campus and there are cash prizes available.

Anyone else ready for Spring?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oyster Update and other stuff

The title indicates my intention to post some of Scooby's oyster project stuff on here, but the formatting got all wonky and after trying to fix it for about an hour I gave up.  Plus, I just discovered there are two more large components to this project and one more medium sized one, and I got quite discouraged.  I thought we were done.  But there's still a "Final" (which is mostly a compliation of all the steps done so far, plus the inclusion of a weekly journal.  Which I knew nothing about, and doesn't exist.  Sigh) and a presentation board with oral report.  And before those, an abstract.  Really, this project is GREAT but holy moley is it huge. 

Facebook followers may have noticed a recent posting that said I was researching Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Gifted Children.  Does this sound familiar to anyone? If it doesn't, you haven't spent much time around Scooby lately.

"Children who have ODD are often disobedient. They are easily angered and may seem to be angry much of the time. Very young children with the disorder will throw temper tantrums that last for 30 minutes or longer, over seemingly trivial matters. In addition, the child with ODD often starts arguments and will not give up. Winning the argument seems to be very important to a child with this disorder. Even if the youth knows that he or she will lose a privilege or otherwise be punished for continuing the tantrum or argument, he or she is unable to stop. Attempting to reason with such a child often backfires because the child perceives rational discussion as a continuation of the argument. Most children with ODD, however, do not perceive themselves as being argumentative or difficult. It is usual for such children to blame all their problems on others. Such children can also be perfectionists and have a strong sense of justice regarding violations of what they consider correct behavior. They are impatient and intolerant of others. They are more likely to argue verbally with other children than to get into physical fights. Older children or adolescents with ODD may try to provoke others by being deliberately annoying or critical. For example, a teenager may criticize an adult's way or speaking or dressing. This oppositional behavior is usually directed at an authority figure such as a parent, coach, or teacher."

Several articles I read said that gifted children are often "mis-diagnosed" with ODD or other conditions such as ADD, ADHD, Bi-polar disorder, and depression.  The earmarks of their "gifted-ness" are often confused with the symptoms of these other disorders.

ODD also is kind of a catch-all diagnosis for behavior that doesn't quite fit any other classification.  It also has very little recommended "treatment" or suggestions, other than certain behavioral "therapy" which I'm still looking into.

We had a couple of episodes this week that were completely horrible. At school, he's fine.  But at home a tiny little event seems to set him off and it spirals into something truly unrecognizable.  I don't feel like going into details about it now, but it was enough to prompt a search for help.

In other news, I had a conference with Cinderella's teacher because her grades, particularly in writing and "Work Habits" have dropped dramatically this quarter.  Her teacher says she's rocking in her chair, and that is preventing her from getting her work done.  No idea WHY she's rocking in her chair, and she doesn't do it at home.  At home, she's the most focused one during homework time, and has no trouble with the material.  Her teacher has given her permission to stand up, move around, lie on the floor, whatever it takes for her to get her work done.  I've discussed it with Cinderella, but she can't give me any reasons for it and just says she'll try to sit still.  We'll see what happens.

Tarzan seems fine. I'm sure his turn is coming.